In his matter-of-fact way, James Murray reflects on some of the horrors of the War in the Pacific. Joining the New Zealand Navy at 17, Murray found himself aboard an American destroyer, watching the first atomic bomb explode above Hiroshima. “We thought they’d blown up Japan,” he says. Earlier, aboard HMNZS Gambia, he’d watched Japanese kamikaze planes attempting to sink the aircraft carriers his ship was trying to protect. Later he was among the first to land on the Japanese mainland, helping take control of the Yokosuka Naval Base.
Mintaha Beca hasn't seen Lebanon in 25 years. At the age of 86, she sets off from her adopted home of New Zealand to visit her birthplace, following two decades of war. After flying into Beirut with her daughter and grandson, filmmaker Steve La Hood, she is able to laugh about demands to pay a film equipment tax at Beirut's airport. Having witnessed destruction and construction in the former 'Paris of the Middle East', the group set off for the nearby city of Zahlé, where Beca was born. There she is reminded that some things stay the same, and others are no longer hers to own.
Beloved by 70s and 80s era Kiwi kids, Spot On mixed educational items and entertainment. For the final episode, broadcast live on Christmas Day 1988, guest host Bob Parker celebrates the show’s 15 years by tracking down almost every Spot On presenter. There are also clips of fondly remembered sketches and adventures, set to pop hits of the day. The roll call of presenters includes Phil Keoghan, Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Erin Dunleavy, Ole Maiava, Helen McGowan and the late Marcus Turner. Spot On won Best Children’s Programme at the 1988 Listener Film and TV awards.
With his third feature, director Paul Oremland is also one of the subjects. Oremland’s quest is to track down 100 men that he’s met through sex over 40 years, taking him on a global journey from Raglan to London. Through interviews and personal reflection he charts changing attitudes to gay experience: exploring sex, joy, AIDS, friendship, and the value of monogamy versus polyamory. After debuting at American LGBTQ festival Frameline, 100 Men screened at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.
Jack Body, OMNZ, composed for everything from gamelan orchestras to the Kronos Quartet, and was a leading figure in awakening local interest in Asian and Pacific music. His soundtrack work ranged across children’s tales, te reo dramas and nature films. His collaborations with director Vincent Ward include classic film Vigil, and (with John Gibson), 2008’s Rain of the Children. Body passed away on 10 May 2015.
Private Journeys / Public Signposts turns the camera on photographer Ans Westra. Dutch emigree Westra has captured iconic images of New Zealanders since the late 1950s, expressively observing Aotearoa societal changes, particularly Māori urban drift. This film explores her remarkable life and work, and includes commentary from family and friends, fellow photographers, and colleagues, as well as discussion of the Washday at the Pa controversy. Luit Bieringa, curator of Westra's retrospective photo exhibition, directed the film, his first.
Actor turned director Taika Waititi was Oscar-nominated for his 2005 short Two Cars, One Night. His second feature Boy (2010) became the most successful Kiwi film released on its home soil — at least until Waititi's adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. In 2017 Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok became a global hit. Waititi then took away an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, for Nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit.
Peter Hayden’s long storytelling career spans fact, fiction, feather and fur. Hayden has worked extensively behind the scenes on a run of nature documentaries, made for company NHNZ. His acting career includes roles in classic goldmining drama Illustrious Energy and Maurice Gee series The Fire-Raiser. In 2017 Hayden was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film and television.
Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh has helped create some of the most iconic images of New Zealand cinema: the girl with a mop of red hair, standing at the end of a country road in Angel at my Table; the piano on a deserted beach in The Piano, and the charged kitchen scenes of Once Were Warriors.
Sima Urale, Samoa’s first female filmmaker, has brought touching stories of Pacific peoples to the screen, often from an NZ outsider’s point of view. Urale credits her film success to determination and dealing with social issues close to her heart. Her lauded shorts (O Tamaiti, Still Life) were followed by her 2008 feature debut Apron Strings. Urale has also spent time as head tutor at Wellington's NZ Film and Television School.